What’s your first thought when you think of a prisoner?
Often, people have a negative perception of those doing time, even if the person was convicted of a victimless crime. That’s one reason why former convicts have such difficulty finding work and forming new relationships once they are released from prison.
However, it’s important to remember that ex-cons are people — and no less human than someone who has never done any time. In fact, you might be surprised what you can learn from those who have been incarcerated.
We are students of this experience called life. The truth is that we can learn from everybody. After speaking to a number of prisoners, I learned a lot.
Here are two of the most important lessons:
- Most prisoners have developed remarkable mental strength. (Many of their habits are described in this article.)
- Time spent in prison can be productive or unproductive. Despite their limited resources, inmates tend to get creative and at times are even more productive than those who are not limited in resources.
So, what can we learn from prison inmates that will make us productive in life?
1. Write Every Day
Prisoners typically have three mealtimes and a recess period every day. Unless one has a job in prison, the other 19 hours are spent in their prison cell. 19 hours is a long time to sit and be unproductive. What would you do if you were confined to a room for 19 hours?
Prison inmates frequently write to pass time. Some write song lyrics. Others write daily entries in a journal. A few even write a book: Andrew Medal wrote Hacking The Valley during the time he spent in prison.
Medal’s advice: It’s better to spend your time being productive rather than sitting there doing nothing.
2. Read Every Day
Besides writing, reading is one of the other activities that prisoners do a lot of. Since inmates do not have laptops and WiFi, they use those 11 to 19 hours to educate themselves the old school way — by reading books.
Inmates often have family and friends who bring them newspapers, magazines, and books from the outside. Having such resources allows prisoners to educate themselves and stay informed about the trends happening in modern society.
Unfortunately, for many who have access to the internet, things like video games, music channels, and social media become distractions to the point that they cannot focus on the resources they need to reach the finish line.
Getting a magazine subscription or joining a book club is a good idea. I like to follow the reading list of successful people in my niche. Peter Sage (commonly known as The Extreme Entrepreneur) is one example of people that I follow for reading recommendations.
Life in prison can be expensive for the majority of inmates, especially when money is low. But borrowing from a bank or investor isn’t really an option.
For many Americans, the financial situation also looks bleak:
50% of Americans make no more than $28,013 a year.
Only 40% of Americans with student loans are paying them back.
22% of American children are living below the poverty line.
So how do you move forward with your idea or goals when the situation is so bad?
Likely, no matter how dire your situation is, someone is surviving with less. Bootstrapping makes you productive because it forces you to be more resourceful. It is a skill that inmates develop in prison, and it can be just as helpful for people who live outside those four walls.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to serve any time in the big house. But for those who do, it can be a huge learning experience — leading to extreme productivity.
Why not take a few moments, and see how you can incorporate their hacks into your life?